INFO-LIMIT: Self-rationing the news in an era of self-isolation


One of the finest books I’ve ever read are the diaries of Harold Nicolson a former diplomat and wartime MP.

Nicolson held a ringside seat in Parliament from 1933 to 1945 as Chamberlain’s government fell, Churchill stepped into place and the evacuation of Dunkirk.

He was a diplomat before his election and was used to recording the facts of a situation and then giving objective analysis before moving on.

His accounts of the big set pieces of 1940 have become part of the definitive history. But the strength of Nicolson’s diaries are that it captures the mood and the everyday. Even at a time of national crisis people still complained about the buses or what so-and-so said to such-and-such.

In other words, even in a time of national emergency people still lived everyday lives.

In the national crisis of 2020, we can often take things from history. One thing I’m taking is the news cycle of 1940. This saw two daily peaks with delivery of the morning paper and then the 9 o’clock BBC Radio News bulletin.

At times just recently the news cycle has been endless. I’m switching off from a 24-hour news hosepipe and I’m looking to check once a day. I’ll be checking what the Government’s chief medical officer says and what the Government line is.

I won’t be giving Piers Morgan a single click or the other barrack room doctors the time of day.

If coronavirus is the long haul, rationing the news and still living the every day has to be part of it.

For public sector comms people who are dealing with this at work this feels essential.

Picture credit: Flickr / Documerica.

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